Driving in New Zealand: Don’t Kena “Saman”!

Top Things to Note When Driving in New Zealand

The best way to discover the land of the Kiwis is via a self-drive road trip—especially if you’re looking to cover several towns in a short span. Almost every road is scenic, overlooking some of the best views of mountains, valleys, and lakes.

While the traffic rules are very similar to those in Singapore, it pays to study them before driving abroad: The traffic fines are hefty and can go up to a whopping $630!

driving in new zealand

The traffic police can track your speed with a radar or laser device, so once you’re pulled over, you won’t be able to worm your way out of it!

X over the speed limit – Infringement fine

Under 10km/h – $30

11 to 15km/h – $80

16 to 20km/h – $120

21 to 25km/h – $170

26 to 30km/h – $230

31 to 35km/h – $300

36 to 40km/h – $400

41 to 45km/h – $510

46 to 50km/h – $630





*This is a general guide taken from the New Zealand Police. It is not to be used in place of any authoritative legal documents.

#1 Drivers sit on the right

First things first: Just like in Singapore, drivers in New Zealand are seated on the right, and drive on the left side of the road.  This means that similar rules apply when it comes to turning and giving way.

#2 The speed limit (motorway) is 100km/h

Along the motorways (open roads) the speed limit is a generous 100km/h. Although this is higher than Singapore’s 90km/h on the expressway, many drivers find themselves unknowingly speeding past the limit. This is because the motorway roads are typically very wide, long, and straight.

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#3 The speed limit at the towns are usually 50km/h

Once you get to the townships, you will need to slow down drastically. The speed limit is halved because you will find many folks walking and crossing roads. So be careful!

#4 Keep your electronics away, and belt up

This rule is the same as the local one: Using any gadget while driving is illegal—that includes your GPS so be sure to set it up before you take the wheel—and everyone in the car must wear their seatbelts at all times.

#5 You need a valid driver’s licence

This is a given, but upon renting a car you will be asked to produce your valid licence. It must be in English, or have a valid translation document. You must carry this with you always, in case you are pulled over.

driving in new zealand

The roads going around mountains are typically winding as well.

#6 The roads are mostly two-way

The different towns are usually connected by motorways that consist of two roads in opposite directions. If you need to stop for a rest or to toggle your GPS, you can do so by the roadside. Also, if there is a solid yellow center line, you are not to cross it (no overtaking).

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#7 Various terrain

Since you’ll be passing by mountains, lakes, and the likes, you can expect to encounter roads that aren’t like those in the cities. These include gravel and hilly terrain, which can be difficult to drive on. In these cases, drive carefully, and keep to the speed limits indicated on the signs.

#8 Unpredictable weather and traffic

If the weather is bad, or if you’re going to popular cities or attractions, you may experience traffic congestions. Be prepared for this, and check the real-time traffic on Google Maps (or a similar app). It’s better to set aside an extra hour to be safe. If driving in winter, make sure your tyres are equipped with snow chains.

driving in new zealand

Along the motorways, there are viewing spots where you can pull over to take a break and snap some photos.

#9 Get ready for long drives

Going from one end of Singapore to the other will take at most an hour, but in New Zealand, getting to the next town can take up to four hours! A lot of us are not used to this, and can grow fidgety and fatigued very quickly. Before driving, make sure you’re well rested, or take into account some rest time. You can plan for meal and photo-taking stopovers.

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Other useful resources: Virtual driving testNew Zealand transport agency  | Road sign guide